National Person Finder and how to locate a missing person

What makes National Person Finder so special? It’s our unique focus on finding people who have gone missing – rather than on undertaking every kind of private detective work going. This is a vital consideration when you’re looking for somebody who has vanished, particularly if they have been missing for some time.

For example, when Ariane Lak disappeared, it took her family a considerable period of time to realise she was missing, simply because fifty-year-old Ariane, who suffers from schizoaffective disorder, had been in the process of moving from one hotel in Milan to another, and as a result there was little concern when she wasn’t in touch for a while. By the time they did discover the problem, the trail had gone cold. For Ariane Lak, the private detective who discovered her sleeping rough on the streets of Milan, was a timely intervention as it appears she may have been the victim of an assault in which she hit her head and which appears to have affected her memory.

Missing persons – how to re-start a cold case

In such cases, organisations like National Person Finder have to retrace the last known movements of the person who has gone missing but also take a complete case history of the individual to establish likely places for them to go and uncover patterns of behaviour that could put the private investigator back on the trail.

It’s rare for the police to have the resources to put into missing persons cases where there has been a long gap between the person’s disappearance and its reporting, but a dedicated firm of specialist investigators like National Person Finder is experienced in locating people whose disappearance has been complicated by a gap in time.

When finding a missing person isn’t the end of the story

Sometimes people don’t want to be found, and in many cases the work of NPF is over when we make our complete and confidential report to the client who has hired us to find a missing person. On other occasions it may be necessary to do more than establish a location – people who have stepped out of their lives often have complex problems that require more than just a report and our dedicated investigators are able to offer support and guidance to those whose family members or friends have gone missing.

So if you’re looking for a team of private investigators with truly specialist skills in finding missing persons and in helping their clients to work out the best next steps to take, look no further than National Person Finder, the UK’s foremost organisation for locating people who have gone missing.

When is a missing person not a missing person?


The answer is when they’re a case of mistaken or stolen identity.

While most of our cases at National Personal Finder involve families or friends trying to locate a missing person, we are increasingly being hired to investigate cases of stolen identity, especially where these cases involve ‘catfishing’ – the theft of an identity to entice other people to send money based on a fake romantic relationship.

A recent high profile case has brought some of the murky practices of catfishing into the public eye. When Matt Peacock, a male fashion model, began to receive phone calls from women claiming they had been dating him online, his only way of finding out what was going on was to hire a private detective agency to help him.

Often the first time that people know they’ve been catfished is when their online romance simply disappears. From being intimately involved with a man or women, often sending explicit photos and money for air tickets so their love interest can visit, they find themselves alone, with their lover’s online profile having disappeared and addresses and phone numbers leading nowhere. That’s when they contact us – to help them find the missing person they had learned to love.

Matt Peacock’s case led to the discovery that more than forty fake profiles had been set up on dating sites, using his photographs and false names. Some of the women had sent intimate photos and videos to their supposed romantic interest. In these cases, which are very distressing to the victims, the perpetrators aren’t actually breaking the law because – unlike classic catfishers – they aren’t trying to make money from the stolen identity.

Matt Peacock is now trying to force a change in the law so that people who steal the identities of others and use them to create fake online profiles from which they are not seeking to make a profit, will still be classed as criminals.

When someone goes missing, it can be a criminal matter

This is an unusual case, but we’ve had experience of several missing persons investigations where we’ve discovered that a missing girlfriend, often claiming to be from Eastern Europe or South East Asia, has conned an online boyfriend out of money for visas or airline tickets and not only that, but has replicated the scam hundreds of times across hundreds of platforms. It’s always a shock for their victims to discover that they have been defrauded by a skilled operator who may not even be of the same gender as their profile pictures, but at least they have a resolution to their concerns about their loved one suddenly going missing.

National Person Finder’s Guide to Grooming and Trafficking


This is not a subject that anybody wishes to consider, but recent news stories in the UK and the USA suggest that it’s high time that people were better educated about how these criminal activities work and what relationship they have to missing persons.

People Trafficking in the USA

Fifteen-year-old Sophie Reeder has gone missing from her home in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and private detectives involved in her case are increasingly convinced that she may have been the victim of human trafficking. Girls like Sophie, who is described as ‘very beautiful’ are considered to be at increasing risk from sophisticated grooming and trafficking activities undertaken by organised gangs.

Missing persons and grooming

Both boys and girls are at risk of grooming which can take place in person or online. Our experienced missing persons investigators know that key hotspots for grooming attempts are school gates, parks and playgrounds and transport hubs like bus stops and train stations where students gather. University bars are also a key location for this kind of attempt.

Grooming involves three elements

1. Isolating the young person
2. Building a bond with them (this can take the form of drink or drugs)
3. Establishing power over them – this can be done through coercion or blackmail, through leading the young person to believe they are in love with the groomer.

How does grooming work and is it different to trafficking?

Grooming and trafficking overlap and both can lead to missing persons cases. The first element, isolating a young person, may involve removing them from friends and family so that they cannot find the resources to say no to the groomer. The second point often results from the groomer/trafficker supplying the youngster with drink and drugs to reduce their inhibitions and create a dependence. Often the final stage of establishing power can take the form of creating an addiction or telling the youngster that he or she owes debt, for drugs or travel for example, that can only be paid off by sex work. Forms of sex work that are common and lead to people going missing include web-camming (have sex on camera for a paying audience) and – for girls – club and pole dancing.

When young people go missing

At National Person Finder we sometimes discover that a young person’s disappearance is linked to grooming or sex trafficking – in these cases, sensitive investigation is necessary because organised grooming and people trafficking involves people with large resources and a well-organised way of keeping young people moving so that they can rarely be identified or returned to their families.

Our skilled investigators have been instrumental in restoring missing youngsters to many families and are experienced in the complex process of discovering the whereabouts of missing young people and extracting them from difficult situations.

Who hires a private detective to investigate a missing persons case?

Missing teens – and how to help

One of the most common, and most distressing, incidents for a family is when a teenager goes missing. This rarely happens ‘out of the blue’ although it often feels that way at first. The truth is that many families are the last ones to know about underlying pressures that can cause a young person to feel the need to escape. This can particularly be the case when the pressures are happening inside the family such as when serious illness, job loss or broken relationships are already causing family unrest.

However, experienced private investigators such as those working for National Person Finder are able to retrace the steps, and the stresses experienced by missing teens and may – as a result – be able to discover which bolthole the young person has chosen.

Social media has become a key feature of missing persons cases with youngsters and while well-meaning parents can often try to discover the whereabouts of a missing child, their heavy-handed investigations can alert the teenager and cause them to disappear even more effectively. This is why an anonymous approach, supported by excellent investigative skills, can follow the trail without causing a young person to bolt again. Of course there is no guarantee that a youngster will return home, but effective private investigation can often open a channel of communication that eventually allows a teenager to come back to their family when they are ready.

Dutch detective helps investigate suspicious deaths

The Dutch government has seen a steady decline in the number of autopsies carried out in the Netherlands – in 2005, 617 post mortem investigations were carried out but by 2015 the number had fallen to 279. Dick Gosewehr, a former detective, is working with Leiden-based lawyer Sébas Diekstra and pathologist Frank de Groot, to offer a second opinion on suspicious deaths – and their service is absolutely free. According to the consortium, around 20-25 murders could be going undetected every year. The group has been involved in a number of high-profile ‘mysterious death’ cases including the death of an eighteen-year-old boy found dead beneath a bridge in Belgium and a young woman killed by a train. While both deaths were officially branded suicides, they have both been reclassified to explore the possibility that their deaths were the result of criminal action or actual murder.

Many hundreds of people in the UK every year find themselves unsatisfied with inquest results and feel they have nowhere else to turn – private investigator teams can give these families routes to explore that can help them discover relevant facts about the death of a loved one.

How to find a missing person

A recent high profile fugitive case has given yet more evidence of why it’s important to consider funding your own missing person investigation. At National Person Finder we have often had the experience of ‘falling over’ a missing person and while they might emerge from a line of enquiry we’ve considered less than promising, it’s our job to pursue every route. The discovery of Viktoria Nasyrova is an example of a relentless private investigator who got his woman in the end.

However, the story is a brutal one, Nasyrova is wanted for murder, in Russsia, in 2014, but somehow she escaped and fled to America where she set up in business as a masseur. She was even arrested in New York in 2016 but because the police didn’t fingerprint her, she slipped through the net again. Finally she was arrested on suspicion of drugging and robbing men she met on dating sites. A private detective spent hours looking at photographs the woman he suspected was Nasyrova and was finally able to track her down after the daughter of her murder victim heard that Nasyrova had moved to the USA and was living in Brooklyn. By tracking down Facebook profiles he was able discover Nasyrova but then he had to find out her location. He did this by identifying a car featured in the photographs by the seat stitching, then putting out a surveillance team to find vehicles of that kind in the area she was rumoured to be living in. By staking out the vehicles he was able to find which one was hers, then inform the police who arrested her.

Nasyrova would have escaped justice and continued to commit crime if it hadn’t been for a truly dedicated private investigator who used every legal means at his disposal to fulfil his brief.

National Person Finder’s missing person investigations

It’s admittedly rare to have a international fugitive as a missing person – and incredibly rare to have a missing persons investigator hired to find a criminal rather than a missing family member or friend. But we have often been involved in cases where a parent was concerned about an estranged partner having access to a child, or where an injunction has been awarded but there is evidence to suggest that it’s being broken. In such circumstances absolute discretion is vital but using innovative investigative procedures is also necessary to ensure that information is available sooner rather than later so effective action can be taken.

How to Find a Missing Person

find-a-missing-personThere’s a private detective in the USA by the name of Troy Griffin who claims to be a psychic. His work involves using the paranormal to investigate, in particular, missing person’s cases. He claims to have worked on around a hundred cases to find a missing person.

Currently he’s been involved with case of a young woman Kelsie Schelling, who disappeared in 2013 at the age of 21, when she was was eight weeks pregnant. Four years later Kelsie’s mother has apparently hired Griffin to help find her daughter after he got in touch with her with a message from her missing daughter.

In his six years he claims to have had around an 18-20% success rate which he says is good given how few unsolved missing persons cases are ever resolved. However, according to ABC News who investigated his claims, Griffin has been unable to verify a single successful case and the local police in the area he claims that Kelsie’s body might be found are ‘unaware of his investigation’.

Many people consider this kind of approach to be ‘trading on the grief’ of those who have missing relatives or friends, and in several famous cases psychics have been proven to be completely wrong, most notably in the USA in 2004 when Sylvia Browne appeared on The Montel Williams Show and told the mother of a missing child, Amanda Berry, that her daughter was dead. Nine years later Amanda Berry was found alive.

At National Person Finder we have more reliable methods that this to find missing persons. Our team of skilled investigators is experienced in both on-the-ground investigation and the complex processes of computer detection that allow us to trace a missing person who has changed their identity. It’s painstaking work, for which the police rarely have time or resources but because it’s all we do, all day, every day, we have highly efficient systems that allow us to explore every avenue in a swift and cost effective fashion.

Dealing with the finances of people who go missing

One major headache, to accompany the heartache of a missing person, is finance. We hear form many families who tell us how difficult it is to resolve financial issues when somebody goes missing. However legislation before parliament this week might help. The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Bill is designed to create a guardianship that allows an individual to administer the financial affairs of a missing person, especially where that person has loans or mortgages. This could help families to continue with life in the absence of the missing person without loans falling into arrears or property becoming uninhabitable because nobody is authorised to make repairs.

We’re following the progress of the bill with interest, so that we can inform future clients of this possibility if it passes into law, because our job is to ensure that families and friends of missing persons are relieved of as many of their burdens as possible.

Proactive Support for Senior Citizens

detective support for senior citizens

National Person Finder has been learning about a new role for private investigators in Japan involving proactive support of senior citizens. The shiritsu tantei as private investigators are known in Japan have a burgeoning role in helping families keep track of elderly relatives.

60 investigators have been trained, in conjunction with local government officials and an NGO, to help people who have cognitive problems to be safe in the community. Like National Person Finder, these private detectives will focus on relocating missing persons, but they have a special role in ‘overseeing’ senior citizens living alone. If the family requests assistance, the private investigators may follow they older person for a while to help ensure they are coping with daily life, for example checking that they are able to drive safely and that they can handle modern communications such as bank cards and self-serve shopping check outs.

The majority of the work is seen as preventive rather than investigative, which is a major reversal of how such issues are tackled in the UK where senior citizens, especially those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, may have to be formally reported missing to the police before any attempt is made to ensure their safety. It seems that in Japan, as here, the police can be comparatively slow in responding to missing persons reports, even of vulnerable adults. It’s also been recognised that a ‘missing person finder’ who has already tracked an older person’s behaviour is much more likely to be able to pinpoint where to start the search and who to speak to – key considerations in getting missing persons back to safety promptly. Around the world elderly people are increasingly likely to be living separately to their families and there are currently 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025 according to The Alzheimer’s Society

Funds raised to help find missing RAF gunner through private investigator

When Corrie McKeague disappeared on September 24, nobody expected his disappearance to become a missing persons case. He’d been out drinking with friends in Bury St Edmunds and everybody expected he’d turn up with a hangover. But the last sighting of the serviceman was of the 23-year-old walking into a dead-end loading bay at three in the morning – and there has been no sign of him since.

A Just Giving page has raised the funds to hire a private detective and fund some data analysis to “undertake the work the police are not capable or resourcing”. Problems with the police approach include the failure to locate Corrie’s mobile which his family know was conveyed to a local waste dump via a council rubbish lorry but which the police say they don’t have the resources to hunt for. Private investigators have much more scope to do depth researches into such matters and we hope that Corrie will soon be found.

Missing Persons

The latest National Crime Agency (NCA) statistics paint a vivid picture of missing persons in the UK. While the news is that it’s still true that in over 96% of cases, a person who has been reported missing returns safely, the remaining 4% are cases of tragedy and uncertainty for the families and friends of those still missing.

Missing persons facts

still missing personsNational Person Finder has been sifting through the latest figures to discover that:

  • NCA statistics reveal that every day the UK police deal with more than a thousand missing persons calls. From our own records at National Person Finder we can also recognise that there are peaks and troughs in people going missing. Deliberate disappearance (where people plan to leave their lives and start again) often happens at the beginning of a new year or just before a significant anniversary or event – e.g. wedding anniversaries, redundancy, or children marrying (especially where a wedding requires a parent to be in the same room with a divorced partner for the first time). While the police record missing persons, they are rarely able to spend time establishing the kind of background profile that can lead to an understand of whether they are dealing with deliberate disappearance or something else – this is one point where a private detective can be of immense assistance when hired early in the proceedings.
  • Gwent Police Force has the highest rate of missing children reports in England and Wales. They recorded 3,559 incidents in 2015/16, which is a 21% rise on the previous year. However the force suggests that the change is more due to improvements in the way incidents are recorded than any change in numbers.

We can also say that when children go missing, family abduction is by far and away the largest cause. As our next story shows, when families fall apart, children often become an area of dispute. American studies reveal that fathers are responsible for 53% of family abductions, and mothers for 25%.  The remaining abductions are carried out by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and – very rarely – siblings. More good news is that around 46% missing children are returned within a week. A further 21% are restored to their families within a month, often with the help of a private investigator.

US Teenager finds out he’s a missing person

Julian Hernandez began filling in college application forms soon after his 18th birthday. However, his social security number was rejected as not matching his name and he asked a school counsellor to help him work out how to complete the forms. Instead she discovered that he was listed as a missing person by the American National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

When he was just five years old, in 2002, Julian had been abducted from his home, which he shared with his mother, in Alabama, by his father who took him to Ohio and changed his name, giving him a false identity. While his mother waited and hoped, never given up the belief she would find her son again, Julian grew up with no idea he’d been taken without consent. In a heartwarming conclusion to the story, Julian asked the judge not to send his father to prison saying growing up without his mum had been painful but ‘taking him away from me is doing the same thing all over again’.

When people go missing, why aren’t they reported?

abandoned-car

It may sound completely insane, but not all missing persons get reported. For many of us that would seem impossible, but it’s all to common for people to find that their fear for somebody who’s gone missing doesn’t end up with a police investigation. The first evidence we have for this sad fact comes from the police themselves. According to Suffolk police, if the person has reasons to disappear and isn’t a threat to themselves or others, they may not rank the investigation as anything above ‘low’. This means that an absconding partner or business colleague, or a young person who has perhaps been using drugs and been caught doing so at work or college, might be considered as ‘low risk’. While the latter are exactly the people who find it easiest to disappear and most difficult to come back home again, the former are often persistent offenders who rip off romantic partners or bosses for money and then vanish. Without a concentrated police focus, those criminals may never be brought to justice.

Private detectives and criminal missing persons

In these cases, an experienced private investigator can make a rapid and conclusive difference. At National Person Finder we often find that when an individual goes missing after emptying the bank account or stealing the savings of their partner, they aren’t what they seemed to be. Through door-to-door investigations and the use of specialist databases, we regularly discover a pattern of this behaviour and can find the aliases and ‘safe houses’ used by such perpetrators – meaning that they can be caught and prosecuted for their offences and prevented from repeating them. It also often means that some or all of their thefts can be recovered for their victims.

When is a missing person not a missing person?

Sometimes a missing persons scenario is not what it seems to be. In an ongoing Australian case the parents of four grown children invited all their offspring on holiday – but left behind their passport and mobile phones. Then, due to the ‘paranoid’ behaviour of their parents, the children walked away in the middle of the trip and the parents fled. The mother was found some days later and is being treated for stress-related illness but the father is still on the loose, having abandoned his car in the outback!

In this situation, it’s quite difficult to understand what has happened, but what’s clear is that some element of the parents’ life had become to much for one or both of them and as a result they tried to rope others into their plan to escape, although from what is still not clear. Often this kind of case turns out to be lined to an undiagnosed psychiatric condition in one person, which ‘infects’ the other with a fear that then causes them to go along with their loved one for a certain period of time, after which their increasingly erratic behaviour can cause them to flee reality, both mentally and in real life.

In such cases, a specialist private detective can have a much greater chance of success than the police because they are able to track and engage with the missing person without being any kind of threat and because their ability to recognise the nature of the problem means they are unlikely to attract the attention of the person they are tracking down.

Worldwide Missing Sheep Case

npf max the sheep

Sometimes you genuinely couldn’t make it up. Remember Ace Ventura Pet Detective? Well here’s a true story about a missing person who is actually a missing sheep, set in Ventura, California, complete with a missing persons poster – and before you read any further, National Person Finder has to inform you that this case doesn’t have a happy ending, or in fact, any ending, yet, but things aren’t looking good.

So, Kristin Colell is an animal owner who has a farm in Camarillo. When her pet sheep Max, went missing on April 7th, she was certain that he had been taken. She called the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office but when they came out, they could find no evidence of foul play. In fact, an agricultural crimes detective with the county claims the animal may just have ‘gotten out of his pen’.

This was not good enough for Colell who believes that the injured sheep that was left behind, and the fact that a chain collar was found near the sheep pen means that her pet was taken – Ms Colell doesn’t use collars on her sheep. Max, a Suffolk Hampshire, is five years old (too old to eat) and neutered (so no good as a ram) so it’s a mystery why anybody would want this particular animal. Even more of a mystery, according to Colell is the fact that the chain collar collected by the deputy who found it near the pen has gone missing. As a result, Ms Colell has appointed a private investigator experienced in missing persons cases to try and establish what happened to Max

As of today, there is no news of Max, although his owner has put up posters offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to Max’s return home. While a number of anonymous tip offs have been received by the PI, not has panned out.

It might sound a little mad to us, and yet one of the most difficult situations that any missing persons investigator has to deal with is where somebody has absconded with something … or somebody.

Missing persons and abductions

At National Person Finder we have first-hand experience of such missing persons cases. Sometimes people vanish with other people’s property, sometimes it’s pets that they take, which can be heartbreaking, and in extreme cases, spouses have been known to make off with their own children, leaving a devastated mother or father behind.

Such high profile cases as Safraz Khan’s missing daughter reveal that this is a common problem for many families, so much so that the UK Government has a website dealing with this exact problem.

We’ve handled many successful cases of absconding missing persons and retrieved property and reunited family members – but nobody so far has hired us to find a sheep!